Wednesday, April 4, 2007
One of the stranger things to happen in recent political discourse -- and this is a crowded field -- is the morphing of global warming into a left-wing plot, a conspiracy by godless scientists to ... well, it's not clear what benefit the scientists get from spreading lies about global warming. Maybe they just want research money to study this nonexistent warming thing.
I have a pretty good idea where that meme started. If you believe that global warming is man-made, then you believe that greenhouse gases are a bad thing. If you believe they're a bad thing, you believe they should be reduced. And reducing greenhouse gases would mean using less petroleum, in all its myriad forms. And since the current administration is dedicated to the protection of petroleum companies, it is only natural that it would try to convince its base that somehow global warming is being promoted by the same people who approve of gay marriage, abortion and secular schools.
The idea that global warming is a liberal plot is a lunatic notion, but it's surprising how closely it maps with public opinion. It's an extremely successful con job, and it's bought the oil companies at least a decade of profits and indolence. It's not clear why evangelical Christians -- or that portion of them that are die-hard supporters of George Bush -- should be so interested in the financial well-being of oil companies. It's not as if they're getting anything out of it.
So the president, who is nothing if not consistent, is trying to stick it to environmentalists again. Last year, he nominated three people for top-level jobs at posts that affect the environment. All three nominations were blocked, and thank you, Barbara Boxer. But now the president is thinking of making recess appointments of the same three people. He thinks it's a game of chicken. He thinks he has to win.
Is politics the art of compromise? Not anymore. Politics is the art of slandering your enemies and rewarding your campaign contributors.
Who are these winners? Fortunately, Judy Pasternak of the Los Angeles Times has done the research so you don't have to. First there's William Wehrum, nominated as head of the air quality division of the EPA -- which is the post he currently holds, thanks to a temporary promotion. Wehrum is a lawyer who formerly represented the chemical, utility and auto industries.
His specialty is mercury and lead emissions. He thinks the EPA standards are far too strict. He has taken steps to loosen the rules because, really, how much harm can microscopic amounts of natural substances do? (Scientists say: plenty, but you know scientists. They're the ones behind the global warming hoax.) So Bush wants a guy in charge of clean air who is in fact in favor of dirty air.
Next we have Alex Beehler, a former Pentagon official and a former executive with Koch Industries, a private oil and chemical company in Kansas. Beehler is slated to be the new head of the EPA inspector general's office, which monitors how well the EPA is enforcing its own regulations. Sounds like a match made in heaven. Inspector: "How's the river quality around here? And do you like your current job?" Employee: "I love my job and I love this river." Inspector: "Carry on."
When Beehler worked for the Pentagon, he was involved in an effort to influence to EPA standard on perchlorate, a substance that interferes with iodide uptake by the thyroid gland. (Not enough iodine leads to goiter.) It's also been shown to impair fetal brain function. It exists in rivers in at least 25 states. Since most of the perchlorate in the water comes from rocket and missile fuel, the Air Force might have had to undertake expensive cleanup activities if the EPA's rules were enforced.
So Beehler: clean water, unless it costs money.
Finally there's Susan Dudley, who would head a section of the White House Office of Management and Budget that reviews all proposed government rules. She used to work for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a think tank partially supported by (wait for it) Koch Industries. She is already on record as believing that the EPA rules are too strict.
In her writings while at the center, she argued that the government should keep its big nose out of areas like smog, air bags and energy regulation. (Yes, the return of the free market to the energy sector certainly benefited the people of California.) She's also big on arsenic in drinking water -- she doesn't mind it so much. She wrote that the EPA should not value the lives of older people as highly as the lives of younger people when making arsenic calculations.
Oh: She's now a special adviser to the White House on regulations, meaning that all Americans already have the benefit of her wisdom, even older, disease-ridden citizens. Such a comfort. I have to go lie down now.